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I Tried It: YouTube Exercise Videos

The Five Best YouTube Exercise Videos

There are two things I know for sure: Armie Hammer looks beautiful in a tracksuit and I don’t want to leave my apartment this winter. Because of the latter, I realized online exercise routines could be my saving grace. So, this month, I put five YouTube workout videos (old and new) to the test — with apricot LaCroix cans as my weights…

7-Minute Workout, 2013, 9:04 minutes (x3)

What it is: A scientifically-based, animated routine that features 12 high-intensity exercises (wall sits, squats, jumps) using only your body weight.

Required materials: A wall, a chair and no downstairs neighbors.

My take: First, the good: The title is “7-Minute Workout,” and there are breaks every 30 seconds. A stoic, faceless man in a royal blue muscle tee (the secret to success?) shows you the moves. As for the questionable: Research behind the routine suggests the workout should be repeated three times for optimal impact, actually making it a 21-minute workout. Then come the push ups. And minutes later, more push ups with rotations — a move that requires you to rotate your body from push-up position into a 90-degree angle away from the ground, extending both (trembling) arms. Despite a week’s worth of attempts, I could never keep up in these final minutes. All in all, this video does remain true to one promise: it’s a workout. The only catch? It felt a little boring.

Beautiful Ballet: Total Body Sculpt Workout, 2013, 15:15 minutes

What it is: A ballet-inspired routine with concentrated toning moves led by former ballerina Mary Helen Bowers.

Required materials: A yoga mat and coping strategies.

My take: If one were to watch this video without physically following along, they might describe it as peaceful. Mary’s posture is majestic, her voice is soft, and her gentle movements could rock a baby to sleep. But don’t be fooled, this workout — intended to length muscles by repeating tiny movements — is tough. YouTube comments from past participants included: “If I had a dollar for every break I took during this workout,” and “This is madness.” They were right. Within minutes, the miniature movements felt piercing. Sets went by where I forgot to breathe until she told me to. But once the video was over and the pain subsided, I was proud of myself. Later that night, feeling strong, I even flexed for my boyfriend. So, I bookmarked it to do again.

Tiffany Rothe: Mountain Climber, 2011, 11:12 minutes (x3)

What it is: A routine featuring core workouts and cardio exercises taught by fitness guru Tiffany Rothe.

Required materials: Three- to five-pound weights (or pantry cans) and zero witnesses.

My take: I found a lot to love in this routine, which mimics climbing a mountain. Some highlights included running with an imaginary backpack (pushing your weights above your head), clearing leaves from a pathway (picking your weights off the floor) and crossing unexpected bodies of water — “Uh oh, here comes the stream,” she says — by rowing a boat (moving your arms in circles). It was weird and funny enough to distract me into doing lunges. There’s also Tiffany herself. She teaches at a speed that feels manageable, wears a flower in her braids and offers kind encouragement like, “That’s it, mountain climbers, almost there.” This was the sweatiest of the workouts I tried, but I’ve already happily returned to it.

Yoga with Adriene: Core (and Booty!), 2017, 28:42 minutes

What it is: A yoga practice guided by Adriene Mishler to tone the core and buttocks, with an emphasis on mindfulness.

Required materials: A yoga mat and a tissue.

My take: This class is a thirty-minute motivational speech for the motivational-speech weary. “We have so much that we didn’t know was possible, so much energy, so much potential,” she mentions casually in a Namaste pose. It was then that I realized I had just taken my first deep breath of the year. Her instructions are easy and relaxed, and filled with modifications for beginners. “Take your time getting there,” she whispers. I can’t touch my toes and I’m clumsier than I expected, but Adriene doesn’t care. She laughs at herself, too. And for that, I will tune in again.

Jane Fonda: Lean Routine, 1992, 60 minutes

What it is: An aerobic dance routine led by THE Jane Fonda.

Required materials: A large room and an appreciation of tube socks.

My take: It’s difficult to know when my infatuation for this video began. Maybe it was Jane’s lacy bodysuit. Maybe it was when she winked and said, “We’re going to go out to roof and have some fun,” as the video panned to studio set with a fake (but impressive) New York City skyline in the background — complete with flashing lights and smoke. Or maybe was it because, when starting the cool-down routine, every dancer nonchalantly put on sunglasses. However it started, here I am. The workout moves swiftly with jumpy hustles and twisting cha cha moves you combine into longer sets. It was difficult to keep up with, but I, like the rest of America decades ago, was hypnotized. Although I can’t picture myself making aerobic dance videos a habit, I’m 100% queuing this up the next time I host a party.

Thoughts? Do you have any workout videos you like? What do you do for exercise?

P.S. Five great exercise classes, and random activities considered a workout.

(Top photo of Jane Fonda.)

  1. Dana says...

    An update from me too! Started doing yoga with Adriene thanks to CoJ and it has been, truly, life-changing. First I did it twice a week, but I just finished my first 31 day stretch of daily yoga, and am rolling into another 30 day program, and can envision this being part of my daily routine always. In 40 years, I’ve never managed to make such a comittment to regular exercise! Thanks Stella, for what turned out to be the best CoJ post ever!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Dana, this comment made my month. Thank you so much for writing, and yay for you! You are awesome. xoxoxoxo

  2. Emma says...

    Update a few months on: I’ve been doing the Moutain Climber workout at home purely from this blogpost and I kind of love it! If you’re unco-ordinated, having to to a mime performance kind of totally helps! Thanks Cup of Jo.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This makes me so happy to know there is another Mountain Climber out there :) Thanks for writing, Emma! xoxo

  3. Sarah weinberg says...

    What I used to do to relief my Back Pain or to just have fun when I was at my friend’s house is to use that giant ball I don’t know whats it’s name and for some reason it had a good effect on my back. It’s like my back was being cured and massaged from the inside out. I don’t really like doing a lot of physical exercise at home tho. But I heard a lot people doing it…Maybe I’ll give it a shot someday..Thank for the videos…

  4. virginie says...

    I can’t seem to stick to any home workout… although I really need to invest in some “me time” ! But I just tried Yoga with Adriene and loved it. Will try to keep it up!
    thanks for the great suggestions

  5. I was doing fitness blender, but I am hooked on Popsugar! Such a great variety and lots of energy!

  6. Lisa S. says...

    Thank you so much for this roundup of exercise videos. I keep meaning to put one on but I know I’ll just get lost for an hour looking at all the choices and therefore I avoid it. Ha! So no excuses. …going to try them all.

  7. Jessica says...

    Tara Stiles has some fantastic yoga videos on youtube. I’ve been doing them for a couple of years now and they are the perfect length and pace for me. Highly recommend them.

  8. Masha says...

    I follow Adriene’s 30 day yoga class. It’s easy on beginners and she’s so lovely!

  9. Edelmira says...

    I like Jenny Ford step workouts she also has marching ones w/out steps.

  10. Amy says...

    I love Fit Body by Julia, she posts the best strength and cardio videos ever and they are never boring!

  11. Kim says...

    I love all the Yoga with Adrienne videos. She has a dog named Benji who sometimes wanders into the video and it’s sweet and hilarious. If you do them on a regular basis, you feel yourself getting stronger. But even if you only do one every once in awhile, you will feel better.

  12. Sara G. says...

    One of my absolute favorites is a nostalgic one – Denise Austin’s ‘Swingin’ to the Big Bands’. It’s the one my mom used to do from time to time, and I just was totally in love with it when I was a kid, and still remember most of the moves. Such a fun throwback! The ones I really love to do now are Blogilates by Cassey Ho on YouTube – super approachable (both in skill and in the length of the videos) + they’re great to mix and match.

  13. Caitlin Noelle says...

    Esther Ekhart and EkhartYoga.com have truly changed my life. She has videos for free on YouTube or you can subscribe to her site for $12 / month (over a thousand videos from a select group of yogis, searchable by class length, type of yoga/meditation, focus of the class). Her gentle spirit, good humor, yoga, meditation, health knowledge are boundless. I highly recommend <3

  14. Lorange says...

    Another Fitness Blender fan here! I like that most of their aerobic videos also are strength building. They are HARD.

    I loved this article, Stella! Would love to read more. :)

  15. Annie says...

    This article (and comments!) are just what I needed! This past Tuesday, I was like, I NEED to find some online workouts when the weather is crummy. Thanks for the tips and laughs, Stella!

  16. Gillian Angrove says...

    This post made my week – HILARIOUS, and I am so down to put Fonda on during my next soiree. I like the way your brain works, Stella!

  17. Michelle says...

    This post is amazing. I appreciate how Stella keeps it real: tissues and zero witnesses are always required for my at-home workouts, too!

  18. BL says...

    Fitness Marshall is always fun

  19. Sam says...

    I’ve been using the Sweat app (Kayla Itines) for almost a year and have loved it. Amazing community!

  20. Hannah says...

    Okay, I’ll definitely try some of these! And I can also recommend something: Years ago, when I was looking for a time- and money-saving alternative to gyms and running (I don’t run in the winter) my boyfriend told me to try bodyweight fitness – specifically Be Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. I tried it, liked it (because it was customizable to my fitness level) – and then started LOVING it when I switched to his 90-day-challenge-programm.

    By now, Mark has several books and DVDs, an app and has recently launched a web-app that contains all his workout videos. (God, I sound like I’m doing an ad… But I seriously love his program!). What I like about his workouts:
    – I can do them at home or a hotel or anywhere
    – many take 20-40 minutes (which makes them easy to fit into my schedule)
    – I don’t have to buy any equipement – workouts either work completely without those or make use of tables and doors and other furniture
    – the workouts are so effective! I feel toned!
    – Mark is easy on the eyes ;)
    – and he actually answers questions himself in his web-app! (I had an injury related question and he was just so nice and kind and replied so quickly)

  21. Bethany says...

    I put the Jane Fonda video on yesterday just for kicks and my 10 month old couldn’t stop staring at me with confusion…let’s just say I’m not very coordinated or graceful when it comes to aerobics.
    However it got me to google ‘work outs with a baby’…something to dig a bit deeper into as I’ve had to spend too much time stuck at home this winter with sick kids.

  22. Judah says...

    I’m obsessed with Jessica Smith’s workouts on YouTube (usually including her sleepy French bulldog Peanut). She’s so positive, relatable and inspiring, I look forward to my daily workouts, and “hanging out” with Jessica and Peanut!
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB7wvgp4HUBe5TD10jIgxDg

    • Carina says...

      I also love Jessica smith she is my favourite by far

  23. kw says...

    I found Bodyfit by Amy on youtube when I was pregnant with my son. She had really prenatal and post-pregnancy workouts. I’ve been workin’ out with Amy ever since! She’s awesome.

  24. jc says...

    love this post so much! lekfit and body by simone are amaaaazing!

  25. A Martin says...

    What a WONDERFUL post!! Thank you! I had never heard of Yoga by Adrienne so today I decided to start her 30 day yoga program. She’s awesome! I also found this one by Tiffany Rothe (her 5 favorite exercises if crunched for time) and it was so fun! This is more my cup of tea. She is so motivating and elegant! My legs feel a bit wobbly going down the stairs, it feels good! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pfAC2ynW1Bk

  26. Stacey says...

    Tracy Campoli has videos on YouTube and you can sign up to get weekly workouts or join her members only Transformer Tribe. She uses minimal equipment and is encouraging and friendly.

  27. alison says...

    I also love yoga with Adrienne! My husband will even do some videos with me (and will often chuckle on the couch when I am doing them alone as the they are SO great!). She is so accessible and just wonderful. I cannot say enough good things about her workouts!

  28. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good online hip-hop class workout?

  29. Ciara says...

    How could you leave fitness blender off this list?! They have so many videos and definitely something for every body. I also love how their videos don’t have any music so you can add your own!

  30. Tricia says...

    I tried MommaStrong after seeing it mentioned in a Cup of Jo comment section, and I’m so glad I did! The fact that you can do it at home in a manageable amount of time (and it only costs $2/month!) makes it sustainable.

    • Jen says...

      The group support for accountability is pretty excellent, too!

  31. Laura says...

    Adriene is the best <3

  32. Sarah says...

    Yet another fan of FitnessBlender here! Great variety, great options for adaptations, and HARD. Since I started working out at home instead of driving to a gym, I work out more frequently and push myself a lot harder. My husband and I invested in a pair of these click weights, and although it’s steep up-front cost, they have more than paid for themselves over the years of gym membership fees they’ve saved us:

    https://www.amazon.com/Bowflex-SelectTech-Adjustable-Dumbbells-Pair/dp/B074PLPV4K

  33. jen says...

    I did aerobics in the 80s and I remember Jan Fonda’s videos. I also remember that she was bullemic (sp) she does look pretty skinny rather than toned

  34. Sophie says...

    You guys should try Mommastrong! Especially those of you who are or have been pregnant. It’s so good and only $2 a month. Not exactly free, but pretty darn close. http://www.mommastrong.com/join-us/

  35. P. says...

    Tone It Up is great if you can overlook the unrelenting chirpiness of glossy-haired sorority sisters who don’t even break a sweat.

  36. Shannon says...

    Try Tone It Up!! They have established an online fitness empire now, they are two California girls who bring the perfect ounce of California-pep to motivate you through your workout. They now have a great app that runs like a studio, where you can sign up for different types of classes – yoga to kettlebells. I LOVE how you can have fun and workout. Its a great community and you can stay in your living room :D

    • Sarah says...

      I second this. I love, love, love ToneItUp and the positivity of their community!

    • Sophie says...

      Yessssss x100000!

    • Cara says...

      I enthusiastically agree! Momma Strong has been a game changer for me. Courtney would be an awesome one to interview for the Cup of Jo website since she’s so amazing.

    • Kari says...

      MommaStrong, and the support group that come with it, are such game changers! Love love love it!

  37. Missy says...

    Fitness Blender! Great range of lengths, calories displayed, progress bar, and (quite possibly the best part) no background music… so you can pick your own:)

  38. I completely forgot about Mary Helen Bowers’ videos. I am so going to have to try that at home now. I’ve been trying to think of ways to stay active on weekends when I don’t have easy access to a gym (we have one in my office building, so I just pop down there after work most days to stay in shape AND avoid 5:00 traffic). I tend to be terribly lazy on the weekends (starting with Friday), but I want to get out of that. Thanks for your well-honed research, Stella! :D

  39. Alyssa says...

    Fitness Marshall!!! If you don’t take yourself too seriously, dancing along with these videos is fun, funny, and great exercise.

    • Laura says...

      yasssssss!

    • alison says...

      Totally! He is so much fun!

    • ALI says...

      Agree he is the BOMB.COM!!!

  40. I’m a former collegiate athlete who is used to having acoach push me along, so I never thought I could get into home workout videos consistently. But once I had my twins, I felt a trapped at home but desperate to get my body back to something that felt like mine again. I bought the annual subscription to the Beachbody videos (21 Day Fix, T25, P90x, etc… hundreds and hundreds of videos to choose from) and they are super convenient. The only part that makes me successful though, IMO, is the fact that I have a coach I really like (and I have never met her in real life) and am on their app with a bunch of other ladies in my workout group for encouragement and accountability. Both the coach and community are free, but they make all the difference. My coach is a fellow twin mom and she helps me stay kind to myself. You can find her on Instagram at @healthymamahappybabies if you want a peek at the workouts.

  41. Jenn says...

    I have no recommendations, but I thought this article was hilarious. More Stella, please!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, so kind. Thank you, Jenn!!!!

    • Emma says...

      Totally agree! The article had me laughing out loud. Stella, you’re the best!

  42. Alyssa says...

    Yoga with Adriene is the best. She’s such a great, calm teacher. I love her yoga for loneliness class. She kept reminding the viewer that you’re not alone, because people all over the world are watching this video with you. *cue the tears*

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      100% yes!!!

    • Chelsea says...

      I love her too! I discovered her a few months ago and love all of her videos and her approach to yoga.

  43. suzanne says...

    can’t forget about “8 minute abs”! the best. have been doing it since college. we used to all turn it on at the sorority house. super simple and really makes a difference when done daily! EIGHT MINS! and the 80/90s vibe is on point.

    • Nicola says...

      Still doing 8 min abs – and have for 20+ years!

    • Stacey says...

      I actually tried the 8 minute abs video because of your comment back in February, and I’ve been doing it ever since! I loooove the cheesy music and workout outfits, and the exercises actually work – I HAVE ABS NOW!!! So thank you for the suggestion :)

  44. Popsugar Fitness.

  45. Amy says...

    Fitness Blender! Their videos are the absolute best. Lots of HIIT and other options too. 5 Day Challenge for Busy People is a good series to start with.

  46. I LOVE WORKOUT VIDEOS. Will definitely try that mountain climber video when i’m not pregnant.
    Currently, I do 10 minute prenatal pilates (5 different segments) every morning. Otherwise, I normally do 10 minutes abs or a 10-15 minute segment from YogaGlo. YogaGlo has a small monthly fee but I love that you can choose a workout based on time, goal or instructor.

  47. I don’t go to the gym and only do workout videos on YouTube or DVD’s I’ve bought. Fitness blender workout videos are my favorite. They are the as BEST and there are so so many to choose from!

    • Another Fitness Blender fan, here. Love their programs, their attitude and and story.

  48. VP says...

    I was always a gym person and never thought I could get a good home workout in. I then tried T25 (Shawn T) and it killed me. Later, I tried Kayla Itsine’s BBG program which I LOVED (she has an App or a downloadable PDF). It requires minimal equipment, and you can make do without any equipment. Because of that, it’s perfect for at home or while traveling. It also brought results (baby weight loss) and made me feel stronger and fitter! Highly, highly recommend this.

    • Christine says...

      OMG! My sister coaxed me into doing Shawn T with her and I almost threw up, it was so intense.

  49. I’m not great at exercising on my own. Even with a workout video I just don’t see the point. I’ll go for a jog or lift weights for 15 minutes, but I’m not capable of anything past that unless I have some company. Recently I became a certified spinning instructor and it’s been a gamechanger for me! Now I always have a workout buddy, and I’m literally on a stage being asked to perform with a greater vigor and intensity than I would ever muster for myself.

  50. M says...

    where do I buy that lace bodysuit though

  51. Sofia says...

    Such a great article! Thanks for these very useful tips, now to the more challenging part of actually trying some of these ….

  52. Roberta Roth says...

    Yay! I’m so happy you followed my recommendation and tried Yoga with Adrienne! I’m even happier that you liked it!
    This article is amazing, I’m glad I could be a part of it!
    hugs from Brazil

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much for your awesome recommendation, Roberta! xoxoxox

  53. Susie says...

    I’m going to try some of these!
    My favorite ever workout video is 10-Minute Barre Abs Workout on Youtube. It’s the best ab workout I’ve ever tried. The first time I did it, I think I only made it 2 minutes in without a pause, but now I do the whole thing and am proud of my abs. :)

  54. Meg says...

    Popsugar fitness and fitness blender!!

  55. Lindsay says...

    This is my go to morning work out. It’s the perfect wake up routine. The 80s vibes always make me smile! 30 minutes light aerobics, 30 minutes toning. It’s just enough to get the heart rate up and wake me up.

    The Golden Door Aerobics Workout – https://youtu.be/-n-Ao6I2BzA

    Also obsessed with YogaTX videos. Enjoy all of the instructor’s but Cole Chance is my fave.

  56. Yes! Thank you so much for this! I love Yoga with Adriene (I saw her at the grocery store and restrained myself from gushing at her!). I’m totally checking out this mountain climber video, that looks like fun! I have been doing Beachbody On-Demand videos, they’re not free but I like having a lot of options. And I have a sweet coach who is very encouraging.

  57. allie says...

    I swear by Aaptiv (their treadmill workouts are so motivating) and am a huge proponent of Barre3. You should check out their online library!

    • Addie says...

      Ditto on Aaptiv! Aaptiv workouts are all audio (no visual), but their strength is that every single work out (treadmill, cycling, outdoor running, stretching, strength training, rowing, and more) feels like you are in a class with an instructor who knows how to say all the right things. The audio includes music, coaching along the way, and often times, helpful tips. You can sort workouts by level, music style, length, trainer, etc.

      I’ve gotten into running thanks to their 5K training program (beginner, intermediate, and advanced options; as well as 10K, half marathon, and full marathon options).

      They also have challenges/programs to target specific areas (prenatal, abs, touch your toes, etc).

      Between Aaptiv, Yoga with Adriene, Fitness Blender/Ballet Beautiful- I can plan pretty well-rounded workout schedules for a few weeks at a time. All low maintenance and require almost zero equipment.

      My main issue is that Yoga with Adriene has spoiled my at home yoga experience. I can’t do just audio yoga.

      Lastly, it’s like $4 a month.

  58. Yoga with Adrienne is great ❤ love it

  59. Amanda says...

    My youtube loves are BrettLarkin Yoga and Fluid Yoga. BrettLarkin has yoga routines for everything (from anxiety to lower back pain to your aunt flow visiting) and for all schedules (an hour to 5 minutes).

    I also love Women’s Health and Cosmo’s workouts available for free on their websites. I love doing those routines while I watch tv or a movie at home.

    For non-youtube videos, I love Jillian Michaels (worth every cent) and Cosmobody’s revenge body (trust me!).

  60. Jamie says...

    I started Blogilates a year ago and it has been a total game changer, I love working out now! I didn’t think I could challenge myself and achieve these goals. My body has never felt this strong! It feels so nice to have a strong core. She is adorable, and a true motivator– just when you think you’re going to cave she says something that keeps you going… just …for a few more… then there is the rewarding talk at the end that makes you feel like a million bucks! Totally recommend Cassey Ho doing Blogilates! :)

    • Talia says...

      I completely agree and couldn’t say it better! Love Blogilates and Cassey is amazing!

    • Fiona says...

      Checked out Blogilates online and it looks awesome. But, I’m a little overwhelmed (guys sit doesn’t take much to overwhelm me when it comes to exercise!). How do I know which videos to do? There are so many? Is there a daily plan of some sort? Help! Love this article. Thanks Stella. So many great options when I can’t make it to my bootcamp class.